UM Partners with Bozeman Public Schools on Safety Grant

October 03, 2014

BOZEMAN – Bozeman Public Schools, the University of Montana and other partners have been awarded a three-year, $3.3 million grant for Developing Knowledge About What Works to Make Schools Safe.

BPS is one of 24 agencies nationwide to receive the National Institute of Justice grant, which will examine how to implement comprehensive, integrated prevention support for students. The Bozeman school district was the only applicant in Montana to be awarded the funding this year. 

BPS will collaborate on the grant with the Montana Safe Schools Center and the National Native Children’s Trauma Center, both housed at UM’s Institute for Educational Research and Service.

Other partners are Gallatin County Youth Court Services, school- and community-based mental health providers, and THRIVE, a local nonprofit that provides services related to school and family engagement.

Titled “School and Family Engagement – Trauma Informed (SAFE-TI),” the grant will evaluate the school-safety impacts of implementing an approach applied within a tiered assessment and intervention framework. SAFE-TI will provide trauma screening, assessment and treatment of student-specific risk factors that impact school safety, including threat-to-self and threat-to-others.

The project will launch in January 2015.  

“This is a highly competitive grant, and we’re thrilled to be an awardee,” BPS Superintendent of Schools Rob Watson said. “This grant will support the provision of a variety of services to youth in need, and the research focus will inform our district and districts across the nation in how educational systems implement intervention frameworks. We also are excited to know that this grant will allow us to provide direct services for students and families.”

The district will expand direct family and student services using parent liaisons, student assistance specialists, student assistance paraprofessionals and community facilitators. The goal is to implement a comprehensive array of trauma-informed interventions.

“This grant gives us a tremendous opportunity to enhance the effectiveness of our mental health and educational systems,” UM President Royce Engstrom said. “The safety of our schools is paramount, and this grant supports not only comprehensive services but a scientific evaluation component that could take this effort across the nation.”

Partner agencies will engage in joint learning activities and research evaluation led by the UM centers.

“There is an urgent need nationally to evaluate how comprehensive trauma services optimally impact students, families and communities,” said Rick Van den Pol, director of UM’s Institute for Educational Research & Service. “The University of Montana is privileged to partner with Bozeman Public Schools in this initiative,” 

“This grant is another excellent example of how the Bozeman Public Schools collaborates with institutions of higher education and other agencies for the benefit of children,” said Marilyn King, BPS deputy superintendent and co-principal investigator on the project. 

Researchers will investigate three main questions: What are the effects of immediate availability and referral to appropriate trauma-informed services and care on students and school-safety indices? What are the effects of delayed availability and referral to appropriate trauma-informed services and care on students? And how does availability and referral to appropriate trauma-informed services and care on students impact school practices, culture and climate? 

“This is a proud moment for Bozeman Public Schools to be considered worthy of studying such a critical aspect of school safety and student success,” said PBS Student Assistance Coordinator Laura St. John, who will assume the role of project director.

“We are excited that we will be bolstering services to students, collaborating with the community and evaluating and sharing the results on a larger scale,” said Chad Berg, the director of BPS Special Education who will serve as systems of care technical adviser.

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Contact: Rick van den Pol, director, UM Institute for Educational Research and Service, 406-243-6756, rick.vandenpol@mso.umt.edu.